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London C 27 Hampshire C 17

Inter CountyNip and tuck all the way, but London Cs sprint to the finish for a third straight win!

It's great writing one of these reports when you and your team are on a high. So far this season the Cs have shown real promise and - whisper it - there's been talk of us maybe challenging for the title. Today we had a big test of that against a decent and fast improving Hampshire side. Coming into the game, I had a genuine feeling that this was some team, and to be honest, I remain committed to the comments I posted before about how proud I am to be captaining it. Today, they justified that pride.

But this was a strange game. It was strange because, to be fair, neither team seemed to be playing that well. It was an oddly subdued encounter. London C looked half-asleep as it progressed forward. We were really treading water for three quarters of the game. We had our noses in front, but we couldn't get a run together to make us comfortable. Hants kept biting away to stay within touching distance and the match itself proved that nothing should be taken as read. That we won 27-17 is not a fair reflection on the Hants side, or the match, because it was one of the closest I have ever been involved in. Only at the end did we start to run away with it - and then some!

The scoresheet gives evidence of this: Andre won the opener but the record reads W, L, W, L, W, L, W, L, L, W, W. The first quarter was exactly that - we'd win a frame, they'd square. They took the lead towards the end, we levelled and then stuck our noses out in front again, 6-5 at the corner. But that was fine, because after we woke up we'd find that form and start to take control, right? Wrong. Even after we won the opening game of the second set to go two clear for the first time in the match, they pulled it back. Then we went two clear again at 8-6 but suddenly they put together the best run so far with three straight to lead 9-8. It was an awkward day. We weren't playing bad but we weren't playing great. There were missed chances, silly positional shots, control taken and thrown away ... We shared the next four and then took the last of the quarter to go into half-time even, but they'd won the set 6-5.

So, surely we'd take control in the third quarter? Well, yes, OK, a little, but it was still hard work. The first four were once again shared, then we won five from the next six to takes us four clear, before they closed the gap to three. It was our set by 7-4, definitely a step up.

Subdued? Treading water? Sleepwalking through? Yes, we were all of these things, but in the final quarter we really came alive. I don't know what sparked it off. Maybe it was getting the run of the balls that gave us confidence. We certainly had the luck on our side but more importantly we started to make it work for us and took control and took our chances. Although we shared the opening two frames of that quarter, we proceeded to pull together a quite incredible streak of eight straight frames, and it was just one of those wonderful things. We had already won the game at 23-16, which less than an hour before had seemed highly improbable. It was actually Lee who potted the winning black, an outrageous shot up and down the table which had everyone on their feet.

For me, the final quarter was like sitting on the back of a horse that was romping to victory at a big race, one after another frames were going our way and we looked unstoppable. But this was out of sorts with the feel of the game, which seemed for all the world to be heading to the wire. I think I am probably more impressed with the team for just sticking in there when the fireworks weren't going off than for finally setting them off. You can clinch a match in one quarter, but you can't win it in one quarter. Isn't that what Hadrian said of the building of Rome: "Brick by brick, my fellow citizens." Brick by brick indeed.

BUT there are improvements to be made. It may have been 27-17 but some players threw frames away by taking their eyes off the ball. Normally solid competitors missed blacks they would normally do in their sleep, or else snookered themselves on the last ball, or ran out of position when the finish was on. I tell you, I am amazed how many normally straightforward shots we were ballsing up! It was like we'd caught a group disease, and none of us watching could work out what was going on. So, the fact that despite that, we still pulled it out is something to be proud of.

Three players were 4 from 4 today, which is a damned good stat. So far this season, Baz Folkard has been London's top C player and was lying 3rd in the region before the match on 6/8. He notched up his second 4/4 today, but he certainly had to work for it. His first two frames were fudge-fests beyond belief. He also blew chances including one two on the black, but somehow he ground his way through. All day the normally fluent Baz, who can dish for fun, won ugly. But he won! Also on 4/4, and also notching up his second 4/4, was Andre Cox. Putting a disappointing last match behind him he played some quality pool throughout and seemed always in charge. The third 4/4 was perhaps the most welcome of them all because it signalled a return to form for a player who had hitherto been struggling to find his touch this season: the normally unflappable Richard Chapman.

Two players were on 3/4 and they deserve every bit as much credit as the 4/4 brigade. Michael Bonney is just consistency par excellence. Coming into today he'd gone 3/4, 3/4 to lay just behind Baz in the stats. Another 3/4 is testament to this man's approach to county pool. And to boot, he scored a break-dish in the last game, to match the break-dish he got last match. That's good county pool, I can tell you. And Paul Williams was a quiet giant. It was his first outing and my decision to start him seemed iffy after he threw away his first frame but he came back with balls attached and chalked up the next three.

On 2/4 were Alex Stones, Paul Dawson and Paul Fitzgibbon. Alex won his first frame back in county pool for a year and a bit, having got back into the team through the trials but missed the first two matches. He then let his nerves get the better of him as he lost his next couple, both from winning positions. But he played with confidence in his final frame which was good to see. Paul D had a poor day by his standards, and lost position on occasion and missed a simple enough black to throw a game away, but still got solid 2/4 which is what you need from a man playing below his best. Fitz, meanwhile, has had an awful season so far and I chewed around the option of benching him today but thought I would give him the benefit of the doubt. He then proceeded to lose his opening two and maybe at that point many a captain would have taken him off. For some reason, instinct I guess, I stuck with him, and he rewarded me in fine style with two good frames.

Lee Bushell came in at half time and won both his frames playing stylish pool, and he is currently unbeaten this year. I figure he may be starting against Surrey! Graham Thompson came down from the Bs but lacked focus and while he showed displays of brilliance, had to wait until the last set before recording a win and finished 1/4. Mo Gulaid made his return to county and was perhaps unlucky to lose both his frames before I substituted him, he didn't really do anything wrong. The one player who had a day to forget was Mark Christensen, for whom nothing worked out and who ended on 0/4.

So, we have another win under our belts, and are one step closer to achieving something I believe no other London C team has ever achieved. It's early days yet, so whisper it if you have to ... but these boys can win this thing! We are away to Surrey next, on May 20. I'm quite certain we'll start as favourites for that, which rarely ever happens. Lets keep it together! I feel we'll have a strong side for that match!

I had three lads on 4/4 plus Booney who broke-dished for a second time and played solid stuff, so there's much to applaud in the man of the match stakes. But of everyone, there's one guy who didn't put a foot wrong and so I have to give him the man of the match nod - well done Andre Cox.

I'd also like to say a huge well-done to the Bs for lifting themselves up after a disappointing loss to Berks and recording a big win against a previously unbeaten Hants side. The seniors also ended an unbeaten Hants run, and the juniors won as well, but while the As drew and the ladies lost, I think our combined achievements will put us well-placed in the regional rankings.

Thanks for another great day to all the great players in London C!


#1 | williamgayler on April 16 2012 15:52:10
Yes the C team well done lads sorry I couldn't be there was at wembley watching Chelsea spank spurs, I will be back for the next match and if selected hope to help us smash up Surrey. Yes the London C
#2 | pickwickpoolshark on April 16 2012 19:58:13
GUYS... congratulations on yesterday, another job well done, with so many guys playing well, andre, bonnie, chappie, baz, we in with a great chance as darren says of giving London C there first taste of regional victory, myself, 2 from 4, playing at about 40% capacity, but yesterday even practising i didnt win a thing... thats down to confidence, not playing week in week out, and nothing going right, im sure i will bounce back, ive played the last 15 consecutive county matches and never been under the 50% win ratio, but i promise i will try and sort things out, come on guys, lets smash this region and try and do it in style UNBEATEN.........come on the Cs

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